Neopixel Ampli-Pelz Tuxedo Lights




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Will you be king of the prom or just prince? Bask in the purple glow or in any color of the rainbow.

Mod your tuxedo jacket(rented or not), regular suit jacket or blazer lapels to light up.

For partying purposes, the neopixel LED lights respond to sound. Based on Adafruit's Ampli-tie sound reactive neopixel project, this application will make you the coolest kid/groom/best man on the dance floor. If you make it yourself, even cooler.

Note: This is another after dinner project so it is rough around the edges. Read through for the inspiration to make something yourself. Yeah, it looks like a PFD(Personal Flotation Device) with its signal beacon on.

Step 1: I'm Baffled...

After making the Neopixel Millennial Word Clock Dress I wondered what else I could do with the mask technique of filtering lights.

I wanted to make something that had the same design aesthetic as the light up fashions created by CuteCircuit. It seems they have a proprietary LED strip which forms a wide band of tiny light elements in a matrix.

There are the classic designs of trimming out menswear with discrete LEDs, EL wire/tape or neopixel strips. The next level is to up the wow factor of the LED strips. I decided to try to mod the lapels of a jacket.

I will attempt to replicate the same effect using the neopixel strips I have on hand. They will be controlled with an Adafruit Flora arduino board. I had the electret microphone amplifier board for a previous sound reactive neopixel and arduino project so I might as well make the lapels be sound reactive too.

Step 2: There's Some Kind of Pattern...

Once again, I borrowed Caitlin's dressform to use. One of these days I will mod the dressform to have a layer of cork or dense rubber foam. You cannot stick pins straight in on those adjustable hollow plastic forms.

I cut out a pattern from sheet craft foam to match the lapels. Since it was opaque and light blocking, it would be used as the light mask instead of the iron-on vinyl stencil method.

I marked some guidelines to keep things aligned. I used a paper hole punch to punch the grid of holes. The reach of the paper punch did not make it to the middle of the foam strip and then the alignment of all the holes started getting wonky. It didn't help that the paper hole puncher obscured where the hole was actually being punched.

I had a few big spots in the middle left to punch so I just took an x-acto knife to cut out some hearts and a few things. Craft foam is too thick to stick in a regular scrapbook design punch. You could cut out text letters to spell a light up message. I probably should have designed everything out and ran it through my Silhouette stencil cutting machine to make things more precise.

The lapel to embed the neopixel strip is actually a sandwich of many layers. Backing fabric on bottom, neopixel strip, fiberfill batting to diffuse the lights, white microfleece fabric diffusing layer, craft foam punched mask, and a translucent cover layer. I had this sheer fabric which I used three layers to "black out" what was below and still was able to let light shine through. Neopixels can be blindingly bright but the fabric subdued the light to something comfortable in a more intimate setting. But you could also do with any other sheer fabric or one layer if you do not mind revealing you punched light mask. I just wanted a cool tuxedo satin look on the lapels. If you use an outer cover fabric of something like microfleece, it would soften the definition of shapes punched in the light mask.

You may need a bit of sewing skills to put the sandwich together. I used a serger to sew and bind the seams. What I made came out a bit thick but you can finesse everything into a flatter and less bulky lapel.

Step 3: Let There Be Light...

You can follow the Adafruit tutorial to build the electronics for the ampli-tie project.

Since I have two lapels, each with a separate neopixel strip, I ganged up the connection of the two Data IN pins of the neopixel strips to the one Flora signal pin so that they would light up in sync. If you fit two or three neopixel strips per lapel, you could create a light mask for "The Matrix digital rain" or circuit traces for a Halo Cortana effect.

Attach the lapel light display bars to your lapels in any way you wish. Plan ahead on how you will route the wires and make sure you have enough slack to do so. Secure your Flora and battery pack.

In the demo I added a bit of start up flourish for the purple lights. It then breaks to the sound reactive mode. Actually, somewhere along the way I must have shorted out my microphone module since I was not getting any data viewed on the IDE serial monitor. I rigged up the code to generate data using the random number function. The lights will go dark when no sound is heard. The louder the sound, the more neopixels will light up.

Hopefully this gives someone out there more ideas to design a new wearable. Maybe jazz up the marching band uniforms or church choir robes...

Sensors Contest 2016

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    7 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I REALLY like what you did here and with the Neopixel Millennial Word Clock Dress. These two project are really inspiring me right now. :) I've been trying to think of other ways to filter and diffuse lights in the negative space. It seems like stiff opaque or foam (thick) diffusion materials work the best, which isn't conducive to snazzy wearables. Have you found any other thin or more flexible fabrics?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks. I put up stuff hoping others would try. I only work with materials that I have on hand or are relatively cheap to get since this is my "hobby". I guess you need to cruise down every aisle in a fabric store with a flashlight to see how the materials will filter out the light. There are some rubberized silk screening paints that might work to make a mask - I had thought of stenciling with that as-seen-on-TV spray leak sealer stuff which seems to have a high amount of solids. Experiment with iron on interfacing to laminate or stick on a layer of metallized mylar ballon emergency blanket material. You could probably 3D print a dual color flexible nylon ninjaflex layer and sew it in as a light panel but I don't have those tools. Hey, maybe even pour or cast your own two tone light/dark silicone layer. Have fun!


    3 years ago

    I was looking for something purple and flamboyant to vote for. Found it!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    thanks. Even shop overalls could do with some blinky lights.